Tag Archives: middle school ministry campference

ryan nielson’s Q&A with me about the middle school ministry campference

ryan nielson of pastor2youth.com asked me questions about the middle school ministry campference:

1. What will make the Middle School Ministry Campference unique from other events?

Hopefully dozens of things. But the three big differences that jump to mind first are:

Middle School Focus. Other than some smaller “summits” and “forums”, I can’t think of another event I’ve heard of that was focused exclusively on ministry to young teens. Usually, we’re a sub-set (a minor one, at that) of larger youth ministry events. But, at the MSMC, it’s all about junior highers, baby!

Camp/Conference Combo Context. (Did you see how I alliterated that? Pretty cool, huh?) We’re trying to do something different by taking the best of a conference and mashing it up with the opportunities a great camp can offer. And we’re intentionally choosing this route, not merely to be different, but because we think it fits the vibe of middle school ministry (and the fine people who are called to it).

Life Together. Most youth ministry events have the participants, understandably, coming and leaving, going this way and that way. But with this event, we’re trying to create a shared experience. We’ll eat together and hang out together and play together and worship together and learn together. Even the invited speakers are all expected to stay for the entire event, as player/coaches.

2. Can you give us any quasi-revealing hints about special surprises at the MSMC?

here are some hints:
Attendee hosted playlists
They might not sound great, but they move our hearts
Coffee cart
Mail Call!
Middle School Ministry Fail Moments
Giant Lightbrite
Thief in the Night
Freebies!

3. What do you hope that participants at the MSMC would gain/take away from this event?

More than anything else, we hope they’ll leave feeling deeply encouraged; that they’ll have a renewed sense of passion and vision; that they’ll know God’s deep love for them and their calling. We hope they’ll feel like they’re a part of something special and unique, but not alone. We hope they develop dozens of new friendships that will sustain them long after the event is over. We hope they’ll have their thinking challenged. We hope they’ll leave with a metaphorical bucket of new ideas they can immediately apply. We hope they leave saying, “Yes! That was my tribe!”

the first-ever middle school ministry campference will take place at spring hill camp in evart, mi, october 14 – 16 of this year. check out the website for lots more info, or to register.

“middle school” or “junior high”?

whether you use the term “middle school” or “junior high” is not a big deal, really. but it does mean something. and i get asked this question with regularity. in fact, this post was prompted by a ministry leader texting me to ask if i knew of evidence, other than my own observation, that “middle school” is the more common term these days. more on that in a bit.

junior high schools are fairly new, even in the extremely short scope of american history. traditionally 7th through 9th grade (though not many still have that format), they were meant to be just what the name implied: junior high schools. we often shorten it to ‘junior high’, which removes it from its original intent (maybe that’s good).

the middle school movement (read more in the wikipedia article on “middle school“) rose up a few decades ago as more educators took seriously the uniqueness of young teens. the idea was: the students aren’t merely little high schoolers; they are in a distinct developmental stage, and need a school that is fully aware of those realities. most middle schools shifted to 6th through 8th grade in response to developmental and cultural realities (like the drop in puberty).

these days, whether a school is called a middle school or a junior high often has very little to do with the grades or ages of the students, as schools have adjusted back and forth, often only for demographic reasons. but the 6th through 8th grade format is still the norm.

in fact, in response to that text message, i read that wikipedia article, and saw this statement:

“The middle school format has now replaced the junior high format by a ratio of about ten to one in the United States.”

wow. ten to one is a pretty significant ratio!

now, i’m sure churches – as we tend to be – are lagging behind that trend significantly. but i passed around a memo a few years ago at YS stating that we would stop using both terms (which often made things very confusing), and only use ‘middle school’ in books, events and websites.

for my middle school ministry campference, i do toss in the occasional ‘junior high’ or ‘junior high ministry’ as a descriptor, for two reasons: to not repeat the same term over and over, and because i’m always a little amazed when someone in junior high ministry says to me, “we don’t have a middle school ministry, we have a junior high ministry.”

ultimately, i think what a local church calls their ministry to young teens should reflect the schools in their area. but there’s often not uniformity in the local school scene, of course.

so… i go with middle school. i like the developmental acknowledgement. what do you think?

Q&A with josh griffin about the middle school ministry campference

josh griffin posted on his blog the other day, asking me three questions about the middle school ministry campference.

3 Questions About Campference with Mark Oestriecher
[marko comment: nice try on spelling my last name, josh. that, my friends, is why ‘marko’ is just easier.]

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Middle School Ministry Campference coming this fall (October 14-16, 2011) – it is a brand new event designed specifically for junior high/middle school youth workers, and it is a conference…and camp! So normal stuff like general sessions, workshops and great music – but also free-time activities like zip lines, paintball, ropes course etc. Sounds like fun … here’s a quick 3-question interview with Mark Oestreicher, one of the minds behind it:

1) Tell me about your observations about junior high ministry that led you to create this atmosphere for junior high youth workers to get recharged, trained and encouraged?

We junior high youth workers tend to have a paradoxical combination of total passion for what we do combined with an inferiority complex. In so many churches (and at so many youth ministry events), young teen ministry is seen as the youth ministry equivalent of that strange little homeschool kid you just wish someone else would deal with. But, man, we know. We know how critical and powerful this ministry is. We’ve seen how formative these middle school years are, and how students often choose a path for life. At the end of the day, being in a room with a bunch of people who share my strange and unique calling — who get me — is my happy place. A tribal gathering of junior high peeps sounds like a slice o’ heaven to me.

2) Sounds fun! What makes this more camp and less conference? And why wasn’t I invited?

You weren’t invited because you’re a high school sell-out, dude. Good luck with that “corrective ministry” while we kick it in our “preventive ministry.” (Actually, you – and other HS youth workers – would be more than welcome. Someone doesn’t have to be a full-time junior high person to join us — they just have to want to learn and contribute, and be with this awesome tribe.)

We thought about having a more traditional conference. But Kurt Johnston and I were chatting about it, and we thought we needed to do something unique. We decided that ‘camp for junior high youth workers’ was just the ticket. We’ll combine some of the best aspects of a conference (fantastic main sessions and seminars) with some things we couldn’t do elsewhere (experiential learning, for example) and the vibe of a camp (all our meals together, tons of wicked-awesome fun stuff to do that you can never fully enjoy when you’re responsible for a group of 12 year-olds).

3) Tell me a great, quick story that junior high youth workers out there would appreciate. Preferably something gross and/or silly.

Two quick ones:

1. My 8th grade guys small group was recently putting together our own “creed” — things we knew to be true. It was full of pithy statements like “Respect is earned” and “Maturity takes time.” But they insisted on including a very important final statement of what our small group collectively believes: “Farting is best done outside.”

2. I was standing in the baptismal, interviewing Blake in front of the congregation (just remembered this story the other day). I asked him, “Blake, tell us what difference your faith made when your dad died.” He responded, “Well, it made it suck less.” Ah, junior highers — gotta love that truth-telling, baby.

mad-lib post about the middle school ministry campference

the other day, my family and i were doing a mad-lib during dinner (not an uncommon occurrence for us). in the middle of it i thought it would be a riot to try a mad-lib blog post. but when i sat down to write it, i thought i’d make it about the first-ever middle school ministry campference. i solicited words in a post last week. so, now, thanks to those few-but-fine contributors, i give you this (mad-lib word contibutions IN CAPS):

It’s A FARTING CONTEST for junior high youth workers!

Let’s be honest about this: it’s not every adult who wakes up FLIPPING, “How can I spend some time with NOISY JUNIOR HIGHERS today, and influence them for Jesus?”

That calling, that wiring, is extremely JUBILANT and ENORMOUS. And our wise and wonderful God, who cares so passionately about the young teens in your church, chose THE GARDENER! You are truly one of the few, one of the FANCY; and you are God’s plan for showing love to middle schoolers.

But this ministry is WIGGLY, and sometimes ABNORMAL. You need to be surrounded by others who are CLOSE TALKERS, who are BOISTEROUS. That’s why we created the Middle School Ministry Campference.
We’ve blended the best of an AIR BISCUIT LAUNCH with the experience of a TACO BELL OPENING for youth workers who care about young teens. Whether veteran or rookie, known or unknown, we’ll all be in on this CHUBBY BUNNY together.

This is not a FIRST KISS conference, but a tribal gathering and growth event, with an opt-in mix of SCRATCHING, TRIPPING, SPITTING, SKIPPING and POPPING A FLUFFY.

Bring a CHOCOLATE COIN if you can; but even if you come FLEXIBLE, you won’t be DUBIOUS for long!

for the real skinny on the MSMC, check out the website.

the middle school ministry campference website is live, and reg is open!

the web minions have been busy beavers, getting ready for this day; and now it’s here:

the 2011 middle school ministry campference website is now live, and registration is officially open!

woo-hoo!

i’m so pumped about this thing. here’s the copy from the home page of the site:

It’s camp for junior high youth workers!

Let’s be honest about this: it’s not every adult who wakes up thinking, “How can I spend some time with 13 year-olds today, and influence them for Jesus?”

That calling, that wiring, is extremely unique and wonderful. And our wise and wonderful God, who cares so passionately about the young teens in your church, chose YOU! You are truly one of the few, one of the unique; and you are God’s plan for showing love to middle schoolers.

But this ministry is difficult, and sometimes lonely. You need to be surrounded by others who understand you, who share your calling. That’s why we created the Middle School Ministry Campference.

We’ve blended the best of a conference with the experience of a camp for youth workers who care about young teens. Whether veteran or rookie, known or unknown, we’ll all be on this adventure together.

This is not a traditional conference, but a tribal gathering and growth event, with an opt-in mix of learning, worship, community, dialogue and play.

Bring a team if you can; but even if you come alone, you won’t be alone for long!

click here for the website, or here to go straight to registration!

middle school ministry campference 2011

to let a bit more of the cat out of the bag, here’s the placeholder for the full website, which will launch in a month or so. there’s an opportunity on that placeholder site, also, to sign up to receive further info (when the full site goes live, when registration opens, details about the program and transportation and everything else).

i need your input for a national middle school ministry event

time to let the cat at least partly out of the bag: i’m putting together an event this fall (october 14 – 16) for middle school youth workers. we’re calling it the “middle school ministry campference”, because it’s going to be at a camp (and we hope to take full advantage of the camp in making this a unique event).

i’ve got some great partners on this event: simply junior high (the middle school part of simply youth ministry/group), junior high believe (the junior high event hosted by christ in youth), and spring hill camp (one of the most amazing camps i’ve ever been to).

i’ll be blogging much more about this events in the months to come. but i’m totally stoked about it. we’re hoping for a tribal gathering — a collection of junior high and middle school youth workers (paid and volunteer) who will worship, learn, dialogue, pray, play, eat and dream together. if you’re involved in junior high or middle school ministry in any way, i really hope you’ll consider joining us.

we don’t have a website with all kinds of info yet (which is why this cat is only partly out of the bag). first, we want your input. if you’re part of this tribe — if you work with junior highers or middle schoolers in a church or parachurch context, even if it’s only part of your responsibility) — we’d really like your input. we’ve put together a little questionnaire. it’s short, and should only take about 7 minutes to complete. but it will give us good direction as we dive into deeper planning (in fact, i will have the planning team meeting at my house for 2 days in early february).

as a tiny thank you for your time, one person who fills out the survey will receive a $75 best buy gift card (but, please don’t fill it out only for a chance to win; please fill it out if you’re actually a middle school ministry youth worker).

click here to take the 2011 Middle School Ministry Campference survey